As children’s online time reaches an average of two hours per day, the Ofcom research – Revealing Reality Life on the small screen: What children are watching and why – explains reasons young people are drawn to video services like Netflix and YouTube.
YouTube remains children’s primary online destination, with 80% having used it. Nearly half (49%) of children, and a third (32%) of pre-schoolers aged 3-4, now watch subscription on-demand services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Now TV.
Among those who watch both YouTube and TV programmes on a TV set, nearly half of ‘tweens’ aged 8-11 and older children aged 12-15 (49%) prefer watching content on YouTube. However, more than a third get the same enjoyment from both viewing experiences.
To help understand why children are drawn towards online content, Ofcom carried out a study of 40 boys and girls, aged 4-16, from around the UK.
They offered in-depth data, seven-day diaries, and interviews on what they were watching and why. The study revealed powerful preferences for choice, control and a sense of community. It found that:
Hobbies and passions. Lots of children watched videos related to their offline interests – such as tutorials to further their passion for music or football. Some experienced similar gratification watching others participating in hands-on activities – such as arts and craft, or playing sport – to the extent that they said they no longer took part in these activities themselves in the ‘real world’.
Vloggers and community. Many children watched ‘vloggers’ or YouTubers, often connecting with them through a shared passion such as sports or crafts, and enjoying becoming part of their ‘follower’ community. Lots of the children said they looked up to their favourite vloggers as role models or regarded them as a friend who could provide support or advice. This type of content also appealed to children’s natural curiosity about other people’s ‘normal’ lives; they felt the videos had an authenticity which made them easy to relate to.
Sensory videos. Many children enjoyed videos which included ‘satisfying’ noises – such as other people making and playing with slime, or opening presents. Such videos are described as ‘Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response’ – due to their ability to generate a feeling of well-being and relaxation among some people.
Get more insight from the Ofcom report and other online safety research: